RIVERDALE, Utah (ABC4) – Flooding isn’t the only issue right now with Utah’s high-running rivers. Search and rescue teams are concerned about people getting in the water and being swept away by the current. Weber County Search and Rescue (SAR) showed ABC4 News how they’re already training to get those calls, in this edition of Behind the Badge.

With Utah rivers gushing, local safety experts expect our fast-moving water will draw more and more people seeking adventure. That’s why Weber County SAR has now started this year’s ongoing outdoor swift water training.

The water is cold. Really cold, according to Weber County Swift Water Team Diver Jon Griffith. But that cold water isn’t stopping the Search and Rescue team from braving the fast-running frigid Weber River to practice rescuing someone swept up in the water or recovering the bodies of those who drown before teams arrive.  

“The amount of force in this water is hard to understand unless you get swept away by it, and at that point, it’s too late,” said Weber County Swift Water Response Team General Training Coordinator John Sohl.

During their first outdoor training of the year, every facet of the team came out on the river to ensure they were ready for the call. Divers in the water act as swimmers caught in the current.

These divers are the “bait,” floating toward the county’s outdoor horse team lining the banks. The horse team are experts in rope throwing and the divers are hoping they get caught.

“We’re the shore patrol if you will… we’ll get over to the edge, get our throw bags ready, and be ready to deploy those out and try to get that person to grab that rope so we can pull them back into the shore,” said Weber County Swift Water Rescue Horse Team member Doug Telleson.  

For someone they can scoop up from the water instead, search and rescue deploy their raft, typically tethered to ropes from bank to bank, manned by the Mountain Climbing Team.

“It gives them a stable platform that they can actually work from, so if there was someone stuck on a rock we could lower the raft in a steady manner down to them, they could execute the rescue and we could pull them back to shore,” said Weber County SAR Climb Team Coordinator Eli Whitman.

In cases where someone drowns, the county K9 team, trained to find human remains, scours the shore to give crews better odds on where to search for the body.  

“If our dogs can tell our teams that are going to be getting in the water, where they should start, and narrow that search area down, it’s actually critical to the operation,” said Weber County SAR K9 Team Coordinator Bryan Bennett.  

They believe this year’s high runoff is making waters deadlier than ever.  

“The risk of rescue or a recovery right now with the volume of water we have this year, is something we’ve never seen before,” said Weber County SAR Dive Team Coordinator Kevin Tams.

It’s not just people getting caught up in that fast-moving water that rescue teams are worried about. There is also a concern about where the water is eroding the banks. There are several spots along the Weber River where it’s completely washed out the banks. Search and Rescue want people to stay away from the edge, so they don’t fall in.  

“People need to realize that banks next to the river may look strong, but they can fail at any time,” said John Sohl. “As soon as you go in this water, it’s cold, it’s fast, you’re not going to have another chance.”

Whether it’s someone falling in or ending up in the current from fun on the water gone wrong, Weber County Search and Rescue knows it’s not long before this training will become a real-life rescue, where someone’s life is on the line.

Search and Rescue anticipate our rivers will be running high like this for the next few months, and they can’t stress enough the waters and the rivers around them will be dangerous.